28 Dec 2011

North Korea holds funeral for Kim Jong-il

10:05 pm on 28 December 2011

North Korea has begun two days of funeral services for the late leader Kim Jong-il with a huge procession in the capital Pyongyang.

State television broadcast footage of tens of thousands of troops bowing their heads in the snow outside a memorial palace in Pyongyang.

The three-hour funeral procession was led by a limousine bearing a huge portrait of a smiling Kim Jong-il. The coffin was draped in a red flag.

The BBC reports that as it passed by, the crowds of mourners wept and flailed their arms as soldiers struggled to keep them from spilling into the road.

His son Kim Jong-un and other top military and civilian officials walked beside the car carrying the coffin on its roof.

No schedule was released ahead of the commemorations and no foreign delegations are attending the funeral.

The untested new leader Kim Jong-un, only in his late 20s, was earlier the central figure in scenes of intense grief at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his father lay in state in a glass coffin.

Mourning will officially end on Thursday with a nationwide memorial service including a three-minute silence at noon. Trains, ships and other vehicles will sound their hooters.

Since the elder Kim died suddenly of a heart attack on 17 December, aged 69, the North's propaganda machine has been heaping tributes on both him and his son.

Official media has declared Jong-un the "great successor", supreme military commander and head of the ruling party's powerful Central Committee, although he has not yet been formally appointed to the party and military posts.

Kim Jong-il presided over a famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands and a collapsing economy.

But he pressed on with missile tests and a nuclear weapons program that earned his nation international sanctions.